Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Number Your Days

Dannah Gresh: While in his thirties, Mark DeMoss heard a lot of older people express the same regrets over and over. Here’s what he heard them say.

Mark DeMoss: “I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my family. If I had it to do over again, I would have spent less time at the office and more time with my family. I regret that I didn’t spend more time studying God’s Word. I wish I had known His Book better. I wish I had taken better physical care of my body so that I didn’t have this disease or this heart attack so young.”

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Monday, July 6, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

I know you’re busy today. But are you busy doing the things that will help you reach your goals later in life? We’ll talk about that today, part of a month-long focus here in July where we’re having conversations with different guests on practical life issues.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll learn how to take our emotions to the Lord, we’ll get advice on battling anxiety and we’ll hear from one of our single friends with helpful counsel for women in that season of life. Each of these conversations is to help us grow in the area of wisdom.

Nancy, we being our theme for the month by returning to a classic series from the archives called “Wisdom for Daily Life.”

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: This series is with one of my favorite guests we’ve had on Revive Our Hearts. That's because it is my brother, Mark DeMoss. He is a businessman, founder of the DeMoss Group, a public relations firm specializing in helping faith-based organizations. Nearly four years ago, Mark was diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, he went through successful treatment and praise the Lord, he is now cancer free. Then last year after twenty-eight years of running his successful public relations firm, he decided it was time to close that business.

Dannah: Those are a lot of storms to walk through—so much change in just a few years.

Nancy: It is, Dannah. But as I've watched Mark's family navigate these challenges, I realized that he was prepared thanks to some daily choices he had put in place in his life years before. Mark wrote about his daily habits and his pursuit of wise choices in a book called The Little Red Book of Wisdom. We sat down to talk about that book back in 2011, before those storms began to blow in.

Dannah: So let’s listen in to this conversation with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and her “little” brother, who is also a mature man of God, who has shown in his life the value of pursuing wisdom.

Nancy: Mark, thank you so much for not only writing this book, The Little Red Book of Wisdom, but for coming on Revive Our Hearts to talk with our listeners about some of the things God's put on your heart that you've put into this book.

Mark: Well, thank you, Nancy. It’s fun to be with you, talking with you and about things we both love and care about.

Nancy: You know, I said to you recently it’s one thing to write a book on wisdom. It’s another thing to be a wise person. A lot of people have a lot of things to say but don’t necessarily have a life message in those areas. One of the things I so appreciate about this book is that as I read it—and it’s a page-turner—it’s one that I found hard to put down, but topic after topic related to wisdom.

I said to myself, “I know the man who wrote this book, and I can see these qualities and these principles being lived out in his life and in his family. So that’s one of the things that really made me want to have you share with our listeners about these subjects.

You say early in the book that you wrote the book in part even if nobody else ever read it or it didn’t get any wide distribution, which I hope that it will, but that you wrote it to pass on to your children some of the things that our dad taught us about wisdom and about life and things that are important in life.

As we think about our growing up, I think one of the things we would say is that our dad really had an emphasis on the fact that life is short and you need to live it carefully. When we were young—you were still a teenager and I was twenty-one—we had a first-hand experience that proved to us—demonstrated to us for sure—that life really is short.

Mark: Well, and that’s where I start this book, with a chapter called “A Matter of Death and Life.” I was seventeen, just about a week before my senior year of high school, and had been away that whole summer (which is a subject of another chapter). So I had not been with our dad except for a day or two at this point for that entire summer.

He was playing tennis with three other men at our home and fell to the court at age fifty-three, and was rushed to the hospital. Shortly after that we were looking at a doctor saying to us, “I’m sorry. We did all we could.” There I was at seventeen learning that my father, my hero, was gone.

Nancy: Let me say, by the way, that was Labor Day weekend. It was the weekend of my twenty-first birthday. I had been home that weekend. I don’t know if you remember that the night before, Friday night, we had gone out to dinner and one of you guys had a friend with you. The whole family had been together. I was home just for the weekend. As we got home from dinner that night—that Friday night—Daddy said to the friend, “You’re really fortunate to be with us when we’re all together. We’ll probably never all be like this together again.”

Then that next morning, Saturday morning, Daddy and Mother took me to the airport and put me on a plane to go back to Virginia where I was living at the time. When I landed in Virginia, I got the call from Mother saying that Dad had gone to be with the Lord. So for both of us and for the other children as well, some of whom were still there at home, this was just the last thing in the world that you expect to hear. That Saturday morning everybody was together, and that evening he’s gone.

Mark: Well, I had forgotten some of those details, but it impacts your life like—only like those who have experienced it can really begin to understand. It made a strong impression on me at an early age of the brevity of life. I was old enough that I had seen death, but it was in other families and usually people older than fifty-three. Somehow in our humanness we presume seventy or eighty years of life. There’s no real basis for that presumption, but it hit hard.

Then there was another experience. Seven years later, our brother David, at age twenty-two, was killed in a car accident. That was a whole other kind of dynamic because I think there was something in me, losing my father—that I sort of assumed that would be all of the loss in the immediate family. That was sort of the quota perhaps, and it would be a long, long time before an immediate family member would die. Then here we were just seven years later losing not a fifty-three-year-old but a twenty-two-year-old.

I’m now forty-four, and it dawned on me that I’m already nearly my father’s age when he died, and I’m twice my brother’s age when he died. So I’ve lived twice as long as a brother and nearly as long as my father. It puts a whole lot of things in proper perspective.

Nancy: How so?

Mark: It’s sort of a constant reminder that each day matters. Each week matters. Each moment with our children matters.

April and I have watched a precious family in our school bury a second grade boy. We’ve watched a high school senior in our Christian school die in a car accident. It seems every month or so there’s another example, but everybody sees those examples.

I think it’s in your immediate family that perhaps impresses this more upon you than it does watching it just in the world around you.

Nancy: One of the things that comes out of your book that just brought such memories back to me was the fact that our dad lived in a way that he was prepared to die. Though he had no idea that September 1, 1979, would be his last day on earth, he lived in a way that he was ready. He was intentional about life. He was conscious that we have no guarantees about tomorrow.

Mark: Yes, he was probably—not probably; he was the most purposeful person I think I’ve ever known. To describe it to somebody if you didn’t know him would almost seem fanatical or over the top or sort of scheduled to an absurd degree or something. It was not like that.

I learned from him to use time—use all time. Use time in your car. Use time on airplanes. Use time sitting in a line waiting for something. Use time sitting at a ballgame. To use time for something of value. It was purposeful.

He could relax. He could play. He could have fun, but it was purposeful, and it was not the kind of thing that you’d see in today’s classical workaholic that’s just burning the candle at both ends. In fact, he didn’t burn the candle at both ends. He was notorious for going to bed about 10:00.

So this was not a man that was up all night cutting one more deal and writing one more proposal. That’s a different kind of mentality. This was a very rational, reasonable, purposeful kind of living.

Nancy: But it did have some practical ramifications in our home. For example, the fact that we didn’t have television. My recollection is his number one reason for that was just the colossal waste of time that it was for so many people.

Mark: I guess if we were to calculate the hours that we redeemed for something else that an average family devoted to television, I guess it would be in the thousands of hours probably. So I think that encouraged some of us to be better readers and to be involved musically or with something else besides sitting on a sofa watching television. So there were practical applications, absolutely.

Nancy: Tell about the piece of paper that Mother found after Daddy had gone to be with the Lord that I know has had an impact on all of us.

Mark: When we returned from the hospital that Saturday afternoon, my mother found on or in his nightstand beside his side of the bed a little notepad where he had just written out a verse from Psalm chapter 90, verse 12, which, depending on the version, reads something like this: “Teach us to number our days that we may present to You [that we may gain] a heart of wisdom” (NASB).

That was on his nightstand. I don’t know that we know when he wrote it. If he had written it that morning or the day before or the month before, I don’t know, but it was there.

Nancy: I was thinking this morning about that verse. “Teach us to number our days.” Help us to realize how few they really are. Thinking of word pictures in the Scripture that talk about the brevity of life, James says your life is a vapor. Psalms says it’s a hand-breadth or a few hand-breadths, just no distance at all. It says it’s a breath. It’s like the grass. It’s here today; tomorrow it’s gone. All those word pictures Scripture uses to talk about the brevity of life.

We tend to live as if we would just be going on in this state indefinitely without taking thought for what’s next. What will I have in eternity of value to show for the few, short years or days or months, whatever, that I had here on earth?

As I think back on our dad’s life, I think here’s a life that was cut short, as men would measure things, in what humanly speaking we would have considered the prime of his life. A godly man, fruitful, ministry-minded and at age fifty-three he’s gone. My mom was age forty. Our mom was with seven children ages eight to twenty-one. No more days with our dad, her husband, here on this earth.

But he lived in such a way that he could go into heaven without regrets. I think you have really sought to pattern your life, and I have mine as well, to live today in a way that is focused, that is purposeful, that is intentional, and really don’t have regrets when we come to face the Lord.

How has that concept of being able to live and die without regrets impacted your life now as a grown man?

Mark: I’ve been struck by the times that I’ve heard an older person speak at a conference or a church or read an autobiography from a well-known person nearing the end of their life as they would recount regrets that they’ve had. I don’t think you ever hear a new one. We know what the regrets are.

We could all list them, and they are things like:

  • “I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my family. If I had it to do over again, I would have spent less time at the office and more time with my family."
  • "I regret that I didn’t spend more time studying God’s Word. I wish I had known His Book better."
  • "I wish I had taken better physical care of my body so that I didn’t have this disease or this heart attack so young.”

Those are the things we hear people talk about in the twilight of their life. I remember thinking to myself many times I want to get to that point and not have that regret. Since I already know what the regret will be, because people have already gone this way before me, why don’t I just determine not to have them? That seemed like a wise thing to do.

It’s not to say I won’t have a regret because whatever time I spend with my family won’t be enough. Whatever time I spend in God’s Word won’t be enough. But I can sure get it pretty well balanced and make it a whole lot better than it would be if I weren’t thinking about avoiding the regret. So I just have made some deliberate steps along the way in my thirties and forties to address some of those things.

Nancy: Such as?

Mark: I started a business. Unfortunately, the timing of that business was coinciding with our beginning a family. April and I had three young children. I love what I do. I love my company and our work and the people we work with and have had some very exciting, rewarding travel all over the world, and all kingdom work. This is ministry work.

But I remember deciding when I was about thirty-eight to cut my travel in half. I set a goal to do that by the time I was forty. So I began to say no to more things and be much more discerning about assignments I would take and trips I would take. I relied more on staff to travel.

Nancy: Your goal there was to be able to invest in your children.

Mark: Invest in my children who are now in high school and one soon to go to college. I will never look back and say I wish I had traveled more so I could have built our business up to a bigger business. I’m sure I will never say that.

Then I remember making some intentional decisions about my health. I’ve been an athlete all my life and in good health, but after our father died, I had some medical tests done and indeed I had some hereditary cholesterol kinds of issues that would make me a high-risk heart attack candidate. I got very serious about that and decided that I was going to do all that I could do humanly to address that and not regret that I hadn’t done something about it.

So twelve or fifteen years ago I got very serious about my diet and exercise. I don’t want to lay in a hospital some day at fifty-three or sixty-three or any age and say, “Boy, if I had just eaten a little more healthy or exercised a little more diligently, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened.”

You know, everybody will have their own examples about what they can do to avoid some of these regrets. This is one of those beautiful things where you already know what the end looks like. This isn’t a mystery. So since we know it, why wouldn’t we take some steps to say, “That’s not going to be my story.”

Nancy: As I think about this whole subject of wisdom and this book that you’ve written, The Little Red Book of Wisdom, which has a lot of practical insights and principles about specific areas of wisdom, you know the starting place is the fear of the Lord. It’s reverence for God. It’s putting God first in your life.

You said that you wrote this book, among other reasons, to prepare your children for life the way our father prepared us. It was interesting, Mark, you don’t know this, but last week I had a chance to talk with your children to ask them for their perspective on your life and the things they’ve learned from you. Now they’re teenagers.

Throughout this week, we’ll insert a few of their comments, but I want you to hear what a couple of your kids had to say about what is the number one priority in your dad’s life. What matters most to him? Here’s what a couple of them had to say.

Daughter: Well, I would say that the first one is definitely God and Christ, and he definitely shows that that is the first priority in his life above everything. He puts Him first. It’s very evident to us that’s important in his life by the way he lives, by the decisions he makes, by the things that he does, but also seeing him every morning in the Word reading before we go to school. Sometimes he’ll just be sitting there reading his Bible, and we know he takes that very seriously. That’s definitely first in his life.

Son: Well, God, first of all. He’s always spending time with Him. Half the time I see him, He’s in God’s Word reading the Bible and any of his spare time, that’s what he’s doing, aside from what he does every day. He’s just a very godly man, and he always shares things like that with us.

Nancy: You said your purpose for writing this book would be fulfilled if your children would have the heart for wisdom that we saw in our dad. That’s got to make a dad’s heart glad, which Proverbs says that it does, to know that his children have that heart for wisdom.

Mark: Well, I didn’t know you had done that and recorded that. It’s very, very special and makes all of this worthwhile. I think I know they feel that way but to hear them articulate it is very special. It’s what matters.

I really don’t care that much what my employees say, and they would say wonderful things about me. Or what our clients say about me. But what you just played means everything and increases the likelihood that they will pass the same, similar values to their children. That’s very exciting and rewarding.

Nancy: Mark, what will make you feel that you’ve been successful as a husband and as a dad?

Mark: That I have passed on a right sense of what matters in life: first, your personal relationship with Christ, and then secondly, my relationship with April and our children. If my children realized that those two things were far more valuable than getting into a particular college, having a big house in a right neighborhood, all the other things we could list, I would want to pale in significance for them. Then I think I would consider that to have been successful.

Dannah: That’s the brother–sister duo, Mark DeMoss and the host of Revive Our Hearts, Nancy DeMoss Wolgmeuth. They recorded that conversation in 2011 but the solid wisdom from God’s Word they explored is just as needed and trustworthy today—perhaps even more so in these difficult weeks and months of 2020.

Nancy: No kidding Dannah. I can't think of a time where we've needed God's wisdom more than we do today.

Today’s conversation has challenged us to think about have we spent time on the things that matter most in life? That's a big theme in the book that Mark has written called The Little Red Book of Wisdom.

Dannah: And yes, Nancy, it’s little in size. But it’s also packed with helpful truth. And yes, it is red. In fact, that may be why my husband considers it one of his favorite books, because red is his favorite color. But in honesty, it is a favorite book in the Gresh household. And the wisdom inside of it is a treasure trove that each of us really needs. It's helpful to explore biblical wisdom.

Nancy: I love how this book is broken down into small chapters, and how it helps us to reflect on the things that really matter. It's a book you'll want to share with others—your mate, your grown kids. It encourages us to think about how to spend our time doing the right things for the right reasons. And as you do over time, you will love the results.

Dannah: We’d like to send you The Little Red Book of Wisdom as our thanks when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size. You can visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Make your donation and let us know you’d like a copy of Mark’s book, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Today we heard about using time wisely. Be purposeful, and don’t waste a moment. But does that mean you should never rest?

Mark: I would say this, if your Sabbath doesn't look different than your other six days, it's probably out of whack. I've just made it a practice to do nothing work related—meaning, related to my business profession. I don't read work-related stuff, prepare for a Monday meeting. I don't answer emails. I really believe that there are emotional benefits; there are psychological benefits; I think there are physical benefits. I used to think that you could go all the time, stay up late and cram a lot in. As I get older, even in my forties, I am tired. I need rest. My body needs rest. I try to shut down on Sundays. That's been a helpful thing.

Leslie: Hear more about taking a Sabbath rest, tomorrow, when Nancy’s brother Mark returns. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you walk in godly wisdom. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Speakers

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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Mark DeMoss

Mark DeMoss

Until his retirement in 2019, Mark DeMoss was president of The DeMoss Group, a public relations firm he founded in 1991 specifically to serve Christian organizations and causes. More than …

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